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In India’s Election Season, a Bombing Interrupts Modi’s Slump

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By Jeffrey Gettleman, VinduGoel and Maria Abi-Habib

Only one month ago, NarendraModi, India’s once unstoppable prime minister, seemed surprisingly vulnerable going into his re-election campaign.

Economic growth had been slowing, thousands of farmers were marching on the capital (some even dumped gallons of nearly worthless milk in the streets), and unemployment had hit its worst level in 45 years — an unpleasant fact that Mr.Modi’s government tried to hide.

 

In a recent batch of critical state elections, his party got trounced. And with the country’s weeks long election process set to begin on April 11, the rejuvenated opposition was landing punch after punch with corruption allegations.

But one bombing in Kashmir, and weeks of military brinkmanship with Pakistan afterward, appears to have interrupted Mr.Modi’s slump.

A young suicide bomber blew up a military bus in Kashmir on Feb. 14, killing more than 40 troops. The group Jaish-e-Muhammad, which operates from Pakistan and is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, claimed responsibility.

Mr.Modi ordered airstrikes on Pakistan, which he blamed for the attack, and Pakistan struck back. Never before, experts said, had two nuclear-armed nations bombed each other.

From the outside, Mr.Modi was widely criticized as being willing to risk war for even the chance at a political boost. And when an Indian pilot was captured in Pakistani territory — and was then quickly returned in a good-optics moment for Pakistan — some international analysts thought Mr.Modi’s military adventurism had backfired.

But that’s not how it has played out within India.

Political analysts say that Indians are rallying behind Mr.Modi again, and that he seems to be making crucial gains among independent and undecided voters.

The fact that India’s airstrikes probably missed their targets, and that a fighter jet was shot down by Pakistan, doesn’t seem to matter to most Indians. Their country was hit, and Modi hit back.

“Even if they go below the seven seas, I will find them,” Mr.Modi said in a speech this month, referring to terrorists. “To settle the score is my habit!”

Some of his supporters in India see Mr.Modi’s aggressive stance not as pandering for votes, but as a return to his old passion and focus.

“Whatever our criticisms about him regarding the economy and jobs, at the end of the day he has done an incredible job of delivering justice for the martyrs,” said Prapti Bhattacharya, a law student and first-time voter.

“Before this, I would have voted for Congress,” the leading opposition party, she said. “Now I’m voting for Modi.”

The Pakistan crisis “has provided him with a golden narrative,” said Milan Vaishnav, the director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The thing about a national security crisis is that it plays up decisiveness, leadership and nationalism. These are three characteristics he often touts.”

India has a parliamentary system, and for Mr.Modi to return to power, his BharatiyaJanata Party must win a majority of the 543 elected seats in the lower house of Parliament or form a coalition with regional parties. The same goes for the Indian National Congress party, which ruled India for about 50 of the country’s 71 years of independence.

Congress’s leader, Rahul Gandhi, is determined to swing the election discussion back to domestic issues.

Mr.Modi’s biggest vulnerability is the economy. Even though the country’s economy grew 6.6 percent in the most recent quarter, still faster than most developed countries, it was India’s slowest rate in five years.

With a population of 1.3 billion and improving education, India produces nearly half a million new job seekers each month. This would be an overwhelming burden for any leader, and Mr.Modi raised expectations even higher by promising to create 10 million jobs, a wildly ambitious goal that, by most accounts, he has failed to achieve.

India’s monthly labour force participation rate, which shows the portion of the working-age population that is either employed or actively seeking work, has been in consistent decline when compared to the same month in the previous year.

“We haven’t created jobs — we have actually lost jobs,” said Mahesh Vyas, the chief executive of the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy.

By his count, India now has about 400 million jobs, down slightly over the last three years.

Another problem for Mr.Modi is dissatisfaction among Dalits. India’s centuries-old caste hierarchy — with Dalits at the bottom, Brahmins at the top and many groups layered in between — still dominates life in many areas, especially rural ones.

Lower castes still face horrendous abuse, and Dalits — who represent close to 100 million votes — have long distrusted Mr.Modi and his party, which is rooted in a Hindu nationalist worldview that favors upper castes and emphasizes India’s Hinduness.

But in the last election, in 2014, Mr.Modi played up his humble origins — the son of a tea seller from a relatively low caste. Analysts said that 24 percent of Dalits voted for his party, double the percentage from the previous election.

This time around might still be very different, even with a bump from the showdown with Pakistan.

Under Mr.Modi, hate crimes against Dalits and Muslims, who make up a sizable minority in India, have exploded. Dalits have been killed for such things as riding a horse or skinning a cow.

Mr.Modi himself has not made disparaging remarks about minorities, but in the wake of this kind of violence, he is often silent. Many officials in his party, including ministers, have taken what are widely considered extremist positions when it comes to protecting cows, a sacred animal in Hinduism, or siding with vigilantes who target Muslim or low-caste butchers.

While many conservative Hindus see Mr.Modi as an unswerving defender of some of their most deeply felt values, many Dalits and Muslims are frightened of their own government. Despite Mr.Modi’s pledges to unify India — he often repeats his slogan, “SabkaSaath, SabkaVikas,” or “All together, development for all” — many observers say India has become more polarized along caste and religious lines during his time in power.

Chandra Bhan Prasad, a well-known political commentator and a Dalit, said few Dalits would change their mind on Mr.Modi because of the action on Pakistan.

“He’s totally lost the Dalit vote,” Mr. Prasad said. “Dalits will still vote for any party that can defeat the B.J.P.”

If true, that could mean the loss of millions of votes.

Farmers were another concern for Mr.Modi, but here, the action on Pakistan could make a difference.

At 260 million strong, farmers are the biggest single voting bloc in India, and many had been furious with Mr.Modi.

He had promised to ensure that farmers received prices high enough to make a profit, but export controls and overproduction have cut deeply into prices for crops like onions and potatoes.

Tens of thousands of farmers have descended on cities, pouring milk into the streets and dumping vegetables onto sidewalks. One farmer sent the paltry $15 he had earned selling 1,600 pounds of onions to Mr.Modi.

But after the crisis with Pakistan, the conversation on many farms has changed, said Vijay Jawandhia, a farmer and leader of a farmers’ union from Maharashtra State.

“I hear farmers saying he is more decisive,” he said.

According to Gilles Verniers, an assistant professor of political science at Ashoka University, near New Delhi, 40 percent of India’s 900 million voters typically remain undecided until right before the election. Unlike with politics in the United States, where people tend to pick a party and stick with it, many voters in India tack back and forth between the major parties depending on the candidates and the issues of the day.

Mr.Verniers said the crisis with Pakistan was certain to “tame the decline” Mr.Modi had been facing.

Before the attack in Kashmir, a disputed territory that both India and Pakistan claim, Mr. Gandhi, the leader of the Congress party and the scion of a storied political dynasty, had gained a new spring in his step. He was speaking out forcefully about a murky jet fighter deal that Mr.Modi’s government made with France, and he enlisted his popular younger sister, Priyanka, to join the campaign, delivering it a jolt of energy.

Both Congress and the B.J.P. have struck alliances with regional parties in the hopes of forming a governing coalition. The biggest leftist parties, including communists and those dominated by lower castes, are likely to back Congress, while some of the largest parties in Punjab and Maharashtra, two populous states, are firmly on Mr.Modi’s side.

As of now, Mr.Modi is the “odds-on favorite,” said AshutoshVarshney, the director of the Center for Contemporary South Asia at Brown University.

“But I think the narrative can change,” he said. “There is still a great deal of anger at Mr.Modi.”


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Age of Enlightenment: Early Greek Philosophy

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By Amir Suhail Wani

All great philosophies and philosophers of the world have been those who made man premier of their teachings. The first entity that man encounters in this boundless universe is his own self. Centuries before, Socrates, who was influenced by Sophism, but was not a Sophist’, asserted that the real subject of man’s knowledge is the man himself. As Alfred Weber accentuates:-

“He [Socrates] placed the study of moral man and of the duties of the citizen in the very centre of education” Despite his bent of mind towards scepticism in regards of cosmogony he was not sceptic towards the knowledge of human self.

 

Thus the phrase “Know Thyself”, as it stands inscribed in the temple of Delphi, reflects the man-centeredness of Socrates. His greatest contribution lied in moving from Protagoras’s individual and subjective man to objective and universal “Human”. Plato, a disciple of Socrates and the author of “The Phaedrus”, “The Symposium”, “Dialogues” “The Republic” and others, emerged as the next towering figure in Greek philosophy. He made extensive use of Allegories and expressed his ideas in the form of dialogues. His most important concept is one of idealism. He believes that the universe, as it appears to us is rather an illusion and the reality lies in idea. His philosophy was deeply influenced by geometry and he made extensive use of geometrical facts in formulating his “world-view”. Thus Platonic philosophy is the science of ideas, enshrined in geometrical lexicon. In platonic pyramid, man is the end of nature, and the idea the end of man. In his view, the highest end lies in man’s most perfect likeness to God. But then he resembles God with abstractions like “Absolute Justice” or “Truth”, which spirals the whole issue back to idealism. Thus Plato’s philosophy and his concept of man, despite its own legacy suffered a heavy criticism. It considered man as the measure of everything and rejected the existence of external universe out rightly. This concept could have been an ideal playfield for idealists or for those who held the views of scepticism. But for millions of conscious people who pondered upon this paradox found Platonic claims to be vague.

Another dexterous philosopher of this period was Aristotle (Born 385 B.C). His works in included both theoretical sciences like theology, mathematics as well as practical sciences like ethics, politics etc. One of the nuclear doctrines of Aristotle is quadruple of “Matter”, “Idea”, “Movement” and “Final cause”. In other words his entire system is founded on “Trinity of Potentiality, movement and actuality”. To him every being is a combination of form and substratum or idea and matter. Aristotelian picture of human essence is beautifully encapsulated in following paragraph.

“Nous”, the principle of divine reason makes human soul an intermediate being between the animals and God. In sensibility perception arid memory, it resembles the animal; in reason it is like God. This dual aspect constitutes its originality as a moral being. There can be no morality without the coexistence of animal and intellectual principles. The animal is not a moral being, because it is devoid of intellect. Nor can there be any question of morality in case of God, who is a pure thought.

Hence morality is the distinguishing characteristic of human nature, and the end of human life consists neither in one sided development of animal functions nor in changing man into god, but the complete and harmonious expansion of our dual essence’. In this sequence there emerges another figure in the form of Epicurus and his “Epicurean school of thought’, which deemed pleasure (Ataraxy) as the ultimate ideal of life”.

This system was simple and anti-mystical in nature and formalism. Much of the existing knowledge of Epicureanism comes from Lucretius’ poem on “Nature of things”. Epicurus divided philosophy into three parts “Canonic”, dealing with rules for finding the truth, “’physics’, concerned with the nature of world and “ethics”, concerned with morality”.

“Stoicism’’, which was collectively formulated upon the teachings of number of philosophers like Zeno, Seneca, Chrysippus, Soli and others was not merely philosophy but a theistic system raised upon the ruins of polytheism or a kind of compromise between theism and atheism. Stoicism concerned itself with the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom. This triangular philosophy of ‘God, man and universe’ forms the crux of stoic philosophy. They too, like Heraclitus believe that heat or energy is the principle of life. But in stoicism, man occupies a pedestal as Mired glibly puts it “Man is to God-universe what the spark is to the flame, the drop to the ocean”.

Confining ourselves to Greeks, after

Stoicism there ensued periods of “Academic scepticism”, and “Sensationalistic scepticism” both of which stressed upon the uncertainty of knowledge resulting from position, distance and other spatial temporal relations existing between the observers and observed.

The “Neo-Platonist” school of thought presented a picture of God that resembled too closely to Islamic one, with marginal differences. To put it in more subtle form, “He the holy one is beyond the beyond and again beyond the beyond”. And as Alfred Weber eloquently sums it “the God of

Neo-Platonism is superior even to idea and therefore eludes the thought”. Neo-Platonism upholds the belief of reunion of ego (Man) with Super Ego (God).Their chief belief in regards the existence of man is that “personality” is not the only form of existence, but all individuals (creatures) are constantly driven towards the creator. is the same thought which is enshrined in most of the schools of thought of Islamic mysticism and has been adored by Islamic mystics as their chief tenet. Neo-Platonists further hold that each form of life emulates the higher form is “Spiritual evolution”, whereby life is ever dissatisfied by its “present” also echoes in Mathnavi of Rumi in most profound form. . The basic premise of Mathnavi is that the souls in devolution from God realized the pain of egress and became restless to reunite with their source i.e. God. is sentence forms the diagonal for the whole matrix of Rumi’s philosophy. In “Neo-Platonist theory’; man is seen as the part of divine whole and of celestial origin. They believe human souls were first divine souls, conscious of God alone. Before coming to world of nature souls were in world of command where they were intimately close to God. After coming to nature spirits got bridled by earthly elements, particularly by their bodies that detached them from divine world. “Neo-Platonism” believes that it is an inexplicable fact that how and why spirits came about to suffer from egress after being in a state of union with God, but they are in perpetual motion towards their origin-the God. Subsequent to this era eventuated the era of Christian theology that was predominantly the echo of Platonic thought. e concept of man, as was presented by Christianity is discussed somewhere else . Here only a passing reference has been made to maintain continuity of the subject. Continuing its passage via corridors of time, philosophy continued to assume forms and philosophers continued to enrich the subject with their astute and manifold ideas. Each new era led to the synthesis of advanced and more encompassing theories. However the “Questions” remained same, only the methods changed and with changing methods the questions were answered with more precision and accuracy.

Out of copious philosophers that emerged in ensuing phases some assumed prominence in comparison to others. Despite all those had their unique “world-view”, but to discuss them all is out of question in this meagre work piece. The next important person of our interest is Aurelius Augustinus (Alias, St. Augustine).He united in his soul a deep love of Christ and an ardent zeal for philosophy. As Bertrand Russell puts it: – “He is the first of a long line whose purely speculative views are influenced by the necessity of agreeing with Scripture”. In words of George Patrick:- “ The tendency towards the complete spiritualization of the soul and to a decided and uncompromising Dualism, already seen in Plato, culminated in the teaching of Saint Augustine and through him was handed on to medieval church and to modern thought”.

The philosophical lexicon of Augustine is laden with myriad issues of thrilling, instigating and thought provoking nature. His concepts on time, vice and virtue God and hereafter are worth study. His thought, which in its broadest structure was a synthesis of Christian theology, Platonic thought and Jewish traditions influenced the evolution of philosophy to a great extent. But one of the major drawbacks, as it can be called in his thought was the theory of transference of sin from parents to progeny, which indeed, he has borrowed from Christian school of thought. He believes, on part of his religious obligation that:-

“If our first parents had not sinned, they would not have died, but, because they sinned, all their posterity dies. Eating the apple brought not only natural death, but eternal death, i.e., damnation”.

Augustine concerns man to the faculties of passiveness, receptiveness and contemplation. Dexterously, as Alfred accentuates:-

“The inner light, which reveals to the thinker God and the eternal types of things, seems to him grow dimmer and dimmer, the more convinced he becomes of the fall and radical corruption of human nature”.

This doctrine catastrophically reduced the status of man from that of a divine ambassador to that of an amoral biped. It created a veil of diabolic nature between the man and his reality. The “fall of man”, as it is called in Christian lexicon is not a belief, but a dogma, a dogma that kept and keeps man in oblivion. The further ramifications of this doctrine will be dealt separately then.

One thing that must be borne in mind that middle ages, synonymic with dark ages in Europe were predominantly dominated by the

Church. Outside the church, there lied no salvation and all scientific and philosophic progress was stagnated by the seal of Christian dogmas.

The persecution suffered by numerous scientists at the hands of pops and church bear witness to the intellectual bankruptcy of Europe during Middle Ages. Given such dismal state, there was hardly any scope to ponder upon the very nature of man. The political anarchy, religious dogmatism, social instability, economic chaos and class conflict no space to fathom the depths of human existence. It was only with the renaissance and scientific movement that intellectual pursuits gathered momentum and a new science and philosophy emerged out of the pitch dark tunnels of history. Numerous treatises affirm the fact that when Europe was engulfed in deep gloom, the minarets of Spain, Damascus and other Muslim territories were illuminating and irradiating the crimson rays of wisdom and intellect.

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DAL LAKE: GAREEB KI JORU

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By Shabbir Aariz                                                   

It was quite amazing to learn about a seminar organized the other day by the Institute of Engineers in collaboration with Jammu and Kashmir Lakes and Waterways Development Authority supposedly pertaining to Dal Lake conservation and its dwellers. It was as usual use of adjectives and phraseology like improvement of lake hydrology and hydraulics, removal of man-made bunds, preserving its eco-sensitivity and rehabilitation, lacking not only the will to improve anything but the passion that is cardinal to any change, seemed missing. Such events sound more as playing to the gallery than an endeavor out of conviction as much of the fire is from the insiders who make noises about it. Agencies responsible for preservation of Dal’s pristine glory have all along failed it. Otherwise this vast sheet of water and its shore line originally spread over an area of more than twenty-two square kilometers would have not shrunk to an about fifteen over the years. The Lake though guarded by the misty peaks of Pirpanchal mountains and being integral to tourism and recreation is not only encompassed by boulevard and fore shore road but also the vultures clothed by riches and influence who have vandalized ecologically rich ecosystem. The untreated sewage from peripheral localities, settlements and house boats responsible for influx of nitrogen and phosphorus into the Lake has never been properly addressed. Big thanks to the vote bank politics that has been chiefly responsible for the authorities to look the other way while encroachments are made and laws sent to winds. It is not less disheartening and shameful to note that there are people in the west who are genuinely concerned about Dal’s plight and even have been extending financial assistance for its preservation but we have failed and let them down. The Lake presently is Custodia Legis (in the custody of the law) by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court following a Public Interest Litigation in the year 2001 for its preservation. The mighty state is the main respondent in the case pending before the Srinagar wing of the High Court. Besides appointing a senior advocate as an amicus curia to represent the Lake’s interest, a number of directions have been issued by the court and a number of affidavits filed by the state so far. A period of about two decades has shown little progress and compliance of the directions of the court and huge funds spent except for a few cosmetic measures like de-weeding and establishing sewage treatment plants, some of which due to the lack of proper maintenance, find their way to the lake for its waste. There is even a detailed project report that was prepared following the court’s direction but hardly any substantial progress has been made on that report or its implementation. It is worthwhile to mention that one of the Chief Justices personally inspected the Lake to have a better grasp of the problems faced by this second largest lake of the state, jewel in the crown of the state and Lake of Flowers but yet it is craving for real justice. Though it has become fashionable to speak about Dal bereft of sincerity like GAREEB KI JORU, MOHALAY BHAR KI BABI (poor- man’s wife is easy to comment upon), one can’t be oblivion of the fact that the stakes are not ordinary. It is an identity, a heritage, a history and the glory that not many people and parts of the world are as fortunate as we are and proud to boast about. According to the Hindu mythology, area close to it known as Isaber (Ishber) was the residence of goddess Durga. Mughals developed the precincts of the Dal with sprawling gardens and pavilions as pleasure resorts to enjoy its healthiness. Thereafter, it has remained the star attraction for nature lovers, tourists, historians, trekkers, writers, poets, movie makers and many more. It has also remained a source of livelihood for generation after generation. Enormous is the kindness and countless are the bounties of this unmatched treasure. It, therefore, remains the prime concern of all the stake holders from the lake lovers all over the world to the dwellers, shikara wallas, houseboat owners; of whom about five hundred houseboats are of Victorian era making them part of the heritage. It is also an important part of a larger environmental debate. It is time to introspect in penance, seek forgiveness from the Creator and conscience, put our heads together and draw up our sleeves before it is too late though already very late. As such a pledge and an honest effort of all the stake holders—– to whom none of us is an exception—– is required to restore and preserve this gift of nature before the nature’s wrath is unleashed on all. Nature follows its own rules and is ruthless in executing them. When we fight nature, the nature fights back with more powerful weapon and registers the ultimate victory. Let nobody test its patience.

(A leading lawyer and eminent poet, author contributes a weekly column. He can be reached at:  vaklishabir@gmail.com)     

 
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The Saga of Francis Younghusband’s first arrival in Kashmir and his Kashmiri saviours

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By Bhushan Parimoo

The name Younghusband though sounds strange, however, is not unfamiliar to Kashmiris. Well entrenched in the contemporary history of Kashmir, Francis Younghusband was a British Resident in Kashmir for two years between 1906 and 1908 when the state was under the rule of the third Dogra ruler, Maharaja Pratap Singh. Their friendship and personal bonhomie is legendary and deservingly finds place in the recent history of Kashmir.

Younghusband’s fame, however, is not  only preserved in him being the  resident in Kashmir at the beginning of the 20th century but in his other achievements as an extraordinary explorer, mountaineer, spiritual writer and a military spy who led the famous British Military Expedition into Tibet in 1903.

 

Famed for his extraordinary forays into Far East and Central Asia, Francis Younghusband was also the first to cross the Pamirs and Hindukush in 1889, the first to scale Muztagh Pass at 19,000 feet above the sea level in 1887 and the first to photograph the Mount Everest with definite and identifiable pictures in 1904.

Before serving as the Resident in Kashmir, Younghusband also served as the British Commissioner in Tibet. Long after he left Asia, Younghusband also had a distinguished term as the President of the Royal Geographical Society and headed the World Spiritual Council for Peace & Harmony.

Younghusband first arrived in Kashmir in 1887, nearly six decades after William Moorcroft, the first British to do so in 1823. It was no easy time for him. And when Moorcroft finally left Kashmir via the Jhelum Valley he was stopped by a semi- independent chief near Uri to pay the custom duty of a heavenly sum of Rupees 15,000 which Moorcroft denied. This forced him to retreat and finally he reached Punjab by a different route but not before he paid the custom duty on his caravan that was fixed at Rupees 500.

When Younghusband first arrived in Kashmir in 1887, it was already autumn and valley’s glory had already begun to depart. At the time Younghusband had no other set of clothing than what he was clad in. He was clothed in long Central Asian dress that was worn out. His boots were in no better shape. However, the inner and under portion of his dress was of European origin.

Younghusband arrived in Kashmir after a journey of nearly 4,000 miles from Peking in China.

He crossed into Kashmir at Baltistan from the Muztagh Pass that was nothing but a rocky precipice of hard ice slope. Doing so, he and his five servants and other caravan men slid down the cliff holding the turbans and waist-clothes and belts tied together. Fortunately, Younghusband managed to carry with him the little baggage he had brought for himself from the other side of the Pass. Even his roll of bedding and personal kettle was thrown down the mountain slope in the hope that it could be collected safely only if it were not lost in the bowls of the mountain crevices during the tumble.

Having thus arrived in the territorial domains of Kashmir, Younghusband at the time had no money and no tent to cover his head. En route he had slept in the open from one side of the Himalayas to the other with funds completely consumed.

Hence, the first thing Younghusband did, after arriving in Baltistan, was to borrow money from Pandit Radha Krishen Koul, the then Governor of Baltistan.

Pandit Koul was a very popular and respected official of the  State and later for his impeccable character , upright public standing and moral integrity was promoted to hold the office of the Chief Judge in the State during the rule of Maharaja Pratap  Singh. Besides Koul, there was another native of the state who became integral to Younghusband’s life as an explorer.

After all the ordeal of crossing the Pass, Younghusband had the services of only one servant who cooked for him and did all other sundry jobs for  his Master which even a dozen employees would have shirked to do. In all emergencies, this faithful servant carried all the load and evidently he became the most faithful and most trusted of the servants Younghusband ever had in his life. His name was Sukar Ali.  A native of Ladakh, Shukar Ali was an Argon. His father was a Yarkandi man who had married a Ladakhi woman. Younghusband first picked Shukar Ali in Yarkand in Chinese Turkestan.

Shukar Ali was a cheerful person, often happy- go-lucky and an easy going man who though was careless at times. Always found laughing, he dealt with other caravan men of Younghusband’s entourage with great felicity. He always performed the hardest part of the duties and was ever ready to do the most dangerous piece of work, be it in the barren wastes of the Pamirs or the Karakorum or Hindukush.

Shukar Ali was the only Ladakhi who dared to cross the Muztagh Pass. An incident recalled here, by the present writer, of this daring feat must stand as a tribute to this brave but unsung man. It is but only appropriate to narrate it in Younghusband’s own words:

“After crossing the Pass we had to cross a very full and rapid stream straight out of a glacier. Immense blocks of ice were breaking off the glacier and floating down the stream. The bottom was also partly ice and partly boulder.

“Shukar Ali, with his usual readiness volunteered to carry me across this stream on his back. But in mid-stream he slipped. I was precipitated into icy water, while Shukar Ali, in his frantic efforts to regain his own footing, unknowingly kept pressing me under the water.

“We both eventually gained the opposite bank all right”.

As a result of this incident Younghusband was wringing wet with ice-cold water on every stitch he had on and the situation became all the more difficult when he had no substitute clothes. Younghusband almost froze in the chill and cold. It took some time before any respite and rise in temperature followed that brought him some relief.

Having known Shukar Ali’s dedication and skills needed to survive high altitudes, Younghusband, after the conquest of Muztagh Pass, again sought his services. Two years later in 1889, the Government again sent Younghusband to explore all the northern frontier of Kashmir from Ladakh and the Karakorum Pass to the Pamirs and Hunza.  And yet a third time, Shukar Ali accompanied Younghusband when he was sent on a political mission to the Chinese Turkestan and the Pamirs in 1890-1891. On this occasion also both were faced with a near death experience of coming under a snow avalanche.

After Younghusband’s 1891 expedition in the Pamirs, there followed a long silence between him and Shukar Ali. For 17 long years, there was no contact between them. However, in the intervening period another pioneer of the Central Asian and Himalayan expeditions, the Swedish explorer Sven Hedin employed Shukar Ali in his Tibet expeditions.

However, following Younghusband’s appointment as the Resident, Kashmir, Shukar Ali suddenly appeared at the Srinagar Residency after he had walked 240 miles across the treacherous mountain stretches and passes from Ladakh to Srinagar.

Shukar Ali appeared before Younghusband at the Residency in the same old coat the latter had given him 17 long years ago while crossing Muztagh Pass. The sight moved Younghusband and symbolically assured him of the devotion of his former faithful servant. During their meeting Shukar Ali greeted Younghusband in all possible manners.

Younghusband, in his book ‘Kashmir’ writes: “He kept jumping up and down, first kissing my feet, then touching my coat, then salaaming, and all the time ejaculating an unceasing flow of speech, calling me by every affectionate term.”

After this initial exciting encounter, Shukar Ali next  pulled beneath his loose ravine native garments a wooden bowl, a bag  full of sweets, a pair of goat horns for Younghusband and his wife. But the special gift Shukar Ali carried were the multi-colured small stones which he had collected from Tibet during some of his earlier sojourns he had made, for their little daughter.

Shukar Ali during this visit stayed with the Younghusband at the Residency. For all obvious reasons Younghusband gifted Shukar Ali with several gifts that he considered could keep him comfortable in his home.

However, before Shukar Ali’s departure from the Residency, he desired for an order from the Maharaja exempting him from service in his village. Fortunately, His Highness, upon Younghusband’s recommendation, readily acceded to Shukar Ali’s request. The Maharaja made out the order by appending his signature  in the document. It was presented to Shukar Ali during a garden-party hosted by Younghusband at the Srinagar Residency. At the time the Maharaja addressed Shukar Ali in the most kindly manner and invited him to visit the Palace for a meeting.

On the following day, Shukar Ali presented himself at the Darbar where he was presented with a shawl of honour by the Maharaja.

Following these felicitations, poor Shukar Ali left Kashmir with many tearful farewell expressions. Few weeks later, the grateful servant sent a letter to his Master. Illiterate, Shukar Ali as such was incapable to write himself. He took help from his native friend Ghulam Rassul Galwan, another intrepid  mountain caravan bashi of many Himalayan explorers of the late 19th and early 20th century and one who had picked up some English words and learned to write in his own grammar and style the world has never known again, to write on his behalf.

The letter quoted here under and considered unique in the annals of world literature for its  true spirit, entertaining simplicity  and innocent expression bordering laughter but always understandable must stand as a token of glowing tribute to all the three pioneers of Pamir conquest: Sir Francis Younghusband, the recipient; Shukar Ali, the author; and Ghulam Rassul Galwan the scribe.

Thus reads the rudimentary gem:

“Sir, I reached very well home, with very felt and found all my poor family very well happy and showed the all kindly of your they got very glad, and we all family thankfully to you to remember us so much, to little people and my all friends got very glad too, they said thank you, and hope you would not be angry with this English written, please you pardon for this, and could not write myself and could not get munshi write you, because and found Rassul, he was my old friend and let him write this letter. Please give my salaam to Mem Sahib and Baby Baby Sahib. Your obedient servant from poor Rassul plenty salaam”, -Shukar Ali

(The writer is a well-known Jammu-based Environmentalist with special expertise in History)

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Jammu, Jun 24: State president of right-wing group Sri Ram Sena, Rajiv Mahajan, joined the National Conference on Monday and...

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Rambagh-Jahangir Chowk flyover to be completed on June 30: DC Srinagar

Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Shahid Choudhary on Monday said that Rambagh-Jahangir Chowk flyover will be completed on June 30: “Rambagh-Jahangir Chowk...

Latest News6 hours ago

Keep new India with you, give us old India: Azad targets Modi over Jharkhand lynchings

Coming down heavily on the government over recent incidents of lynching and crime in Jharkhand, leader of Opposition in Rajya...

Latest News7 hours ago

Rs 50 lakh ‘stolen’ from Gulmarg Gondola

Srinagar, Jun 24: Fifty lakh rupees have been stolen from the safe of Gulmarg Gondola yesterday evening. MD Gulmarg Cable...

Latest News7 hours ago

Security strengthened at Jammu Railway Station ahead of Amarnath Yatra

Jammu: The security in and around the Jammu Railway Station was strengthened ahead of the commencement of annual Amarnath Yatra...

Latest News7 hours ago

VIDEO| Centre to talk to Hurriyat within ambit of Constitution: BJP

Srinagar:The Central government is ready to talk to separatist Hurriyat leaders, but within the ambit of the Indian Constitution, a...

Latest News7 hours ago

Cop shoots himself to death in Jammu training unit

Jammu, June 24: A policeman on Monday shot and killed himself with his service rifle inside a training centre in...

Latest News9 hours ago

Aadhaar,Other Laws (Amendment) Bill introduced in LS

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha on Monday. The...

Latest News9 hours ago

Relieved that Hurriyat has finally softened their stand: Mehbooba Mufti

Former Chief Minister and President of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti on Monday said that she is relieved that...

Latest News9 hours ago

If Pak closed airspace, that’s their problem: Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa

Gwalior : Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on Monday said that Pakistan closing its airspace was a problem for them...

Latest News9 hours ago

Jammu and Kashmir Bank Ltd gains for third straight session

Jammu and Kashmir Bank Ltd is quoting at Rs 43.85, up 5.66% on the day as on 12:54 IST on...

Latest News9 hours ago

20 years of Kargil war: IAF turns Gwalior Air Base into war theatre, recreates Tiger Hill attack

GWALIOR: Commemorating 20 years of the Kargil War, the Air Force today turned its Gwalior air base into a conflict...

Latest News9 hours ago

Iran denies being hit by US cyber attack

Tehran, June 24: Iran said Monday that no cyber attack against the Islamic republic has ever succeeded, after American media...

Latest News10 hours ago

JK Govt bans installing advertisements, signboards on Chinar trees

Srinagar: Government of Jammu and Kashmir has imposed a ban on installing advertisements or sign boards on Chinar trees in...

Latest News10 hours ago

VIDEO: Three injured in Pulwama clashes

Srinagar, June 24: Clashes erupted on Monday between protesters and the security forces in Pulwama district. Police sources said youths...

Latest News10 hours ago

Amit Shah’s first bill today in Lok Sabha on J&K reservation

New Delhi: A bill proposing to give reservation in educational institutions and government jobs to people living within 10 km...

Latest News10 hours ago

RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya quits months before term ends

Mumbai, June 24: The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) Deputy Governor Viral Acharya has quit six months before the end...

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